The Police Youth Live-In at Camp Joy serves to strengthen the relationship with the Cincinnati Police Department and members of the urban community. Officers share camp experiences with inner-city youth while breaking down preconceived notions about one another. Throughout the week we followed the development of a friendship between Officer Tim Eppstein and Taurean, a 12 year-old camper.
The friendship that developed between these two was one founded on mutual respect. Taurean looked up to Officer Eppstein because he took the time to get to know the campers and challenge them to participate in new activities and control their emotions: “Officer Tim is fun and energetic, and he takes one for the team. He encourages us to do different activities, and also teaches us things like how to avoid fights.” Officer Eppstein also gained a renewed sense of appreciation for the people that he serves through the experiences he shared with campers: “Coming to Camp Joy is necessary for me because in my profession I constantly see people doing bad things. It is easy to become cynical under these… camp allows me to see the good in people again.”
In addition to learning how to better interact with police officers and law enforcement, campers learned how to control their behavior and treat their peers with respect. These lessons came from the mistreatment of fellow campers, and Officer Eppstein’s quick reaction to the behavior: “There was a time at camp when one of the campers called another camper a derogatory name and it led to yelling. I told the group about two recent crimes I’d witnessed and asked them how this violence began. The campers were sure it began with some kind of disrespect. I went on to tell them about the cycle of violence it led to… As the week progressed I had to address less disrespect because campers reminded each other that animosity leads to violence.” Through these shared experiences, we know that the bonds between law enforcement and the youth of Cincinnati will eventually strengthen and lead to a safer future.